Invisible Stranger

Invisible Stranger

Collecting Crises on Old Compton Street and Beyond

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Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Queer Up North
I’m a gay man. I realise this is hardly front-page news, and that few of you will now be choking on your coffee and wondering why you never guessed before. Yet I think this is probably the first time I’ve ever said, or written, those four little words.

I’ve never properly come out, you see, not in the conventional, “hey guess what?” sort of way. That was mainly because I’ve never had anywhere to come out from. At a certain point in my life, I realised that everyone had figured it all out anyway, so there was no need for me to slip into my pink tutu and make such a big song and dance about it. And if they did get it wrong, well, it could be quite a game putting them, er, straight.

Of course, I’ve been lucky. I went to University, lived in “divinely decadent” West-Berlin, before moving to homopolitan London, and I’ve always worked in liberal and arty environments, where being gay was never a big issue (and in some places almost a prerequisite for the job).

Others aren’t so lucky, of course, and it must be hetero-hell growing up gay and confused in some tiny village miles away from the nearest bender bar, or copy of Boyz magazine. The tabloids and the Telegraph queer-bash us everyday, the sit-coms ridicule us with limp-wristed stereotypes, and the Church condemns us, while all the time fiddling with little boys round the back of the vestry. No wonder suicide is the biggest killer of young gay men under twenty-five. Who’d want to be queer, with all that lot stacked against you?

Which brings me, believe it or not, to Coronation Street.

I’m a northern boy myself, born in a two-up, two-down in a street very much like the Street used to be, and I love the show. No longer even pretending to be an accurate portrayal of life Up North, it’s turned itself into our best-written ongoing drama serial. And it might have taken it a while - forty-odd years to be precise - but it’s finally gotten round to touching on gay issues.

For those of you who haven’t been down Weatherfield way recently, the current plotline concerns the coming to terms with his homosexuality of soon-to-be-teenage-dad-and-husband, Todd, played by Bruno Langley, and one of the soap’s regular and more likeable characters. It reached a peak last night when he snogged Karl, the nurse he’s been fancying for yonks, in the heart of Manchester’s gay village.

This whole story arc’s been simmering along nicely for months now, ever since Todd planted a chaste kiss on the lips of his pregnant girlfriend’s heterosexual brother (pay attention at the back now); and its been handled with a sensitivity and adroitness that could teach a thing or two to the supposedly more realistic soaps, where we homos are sashayed out for an episode or two to make a politically-correct point, before being booted out again, and the gay girls have all got big tits and are there for the Loaded readers.

And, at the risk of sounding like a dirty old man, what’s even more encouraging is that Corrie’s two gay characters are actually fancyable and defiantly non-camp, eminently do-able, in fact, unlike, say, Michael Cashman and his awful boyfriend Barry, or that other gay couple they had in EastEnders way back when.

Gay teenagers, eh? They’ve never had it so good. Back in my day, the only queers we knew were Liberace and Quentin Crisp, and, while they never claimed to be role models, they certainly didn’t do my teenage years any favours.

And if I was that confused gay boy in that village miles away from anywhere, my only contact with other gay men the ones I saw on the telly, and I was faced with a choice between Quentin and Lee, or Todd and Karl, then I know which pair I’d choose. I know which pair would make me feel better about myself.